Weekend Travel Challenge: The Swahili Coast of Pangani, Tanzania

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Road to Pangani, Tanzania Road to Pangani, Tanzania © Christiane Birr

My trip to Pangani was 2 years overdue, coincidentally I got a number of a tour guide at a convenient moment. Pangani is about 45-50 kilometers south of Tanga town and is home to Digo, Shirazi, Bondei. Walking around town there are plenty of buildings that even though are reduced to ruins profess to the arab and German influence.


It is about 4 hours to Zanzibar by boat and therefore there is good movement between the two cities.The main economic activities in Pangani are fishing and coconut farming.The beach of Pangani has nice shade of torquise, has a number of marine attractions, beautiful shells by the shore and clean soft white sand. Besides the beach, Pangani is blessed with a river of the same name, it is a major river of northeastern Tanzania. It has two main sources: the Ruvu, which rises as Lumi at Kilimanjaro, passes through Lake Jipe, and empties into the Nyumba ya Mungu reservoir and Kikuletwa that also enters into the Nyumba ya Mungu Reservoir. Just after leaving the Reservoir the stream becomes the Pangani that empties into the Indian ocean at the town. For much of its length the river flows along the regional borders of Kilimanjaro region and Manyara region, before flowing into Tanga region, which contains the 68MW Pangani Power Station and the Pangani falls dam. There are several inhabited islands within the river. The river is full of crocodiles; hippopotami are scarcer in its lower parts.

I wanted to go for a fishing trip and after checking out the itinerary from Tanzania Cultural Tourism Programme, I headed to Pangani from Arusha with a $50 USD budget -- which would be equivalent to about 78,000 Tshs.

Getting there:

It cost me 13,500 Tsh from Arusha to Tanga and a further 2000 from Tanga to Pangani. There is no straight bus from Arusha or Dar es Salaam, you have to pass by Tanga and make a connection. It's a little over an hour from Tanga to Pangani on a dala-dala. I left Arusha at 7am and arrived in Pangani about 6pm, having spent the whole day on the road.

The road to Pangani was dusty but I enjoyed the view and the conversation among the travelers in the mini-bus with me. Most of all, I love the accent, I regard the Tangan accent as the best Swahili accent in the country (don't hate me).

Where to sleep:

Down Pangani road there are quite a number of sign posts advertising different lodges. The accommodation options in Pangani are countless, from budget tents for rent at about $2 USD/day on a camping ground that cost $5 USD/night to average simple accommodation between 10-20,000 Tshs and luxury lodges at over $100 USD a night. I chose to sleep at YMCA at 20,000 Tshs/night because it’s familiar (there is a YMCA hostel in Moshi) and being a faith based organization I felt it was a safe option for a single female traveler late in the evening. I was not disappointed.

The hostel is in a quiet place just a few meters from 'Idara ya maji' stop and has a view of the beach- you can actually go down the slope to meet the sand and waves. It currently offers only five rooms that can accommodate two people at a time and the rest of the compound is under renovation. The rooms are simple, clean, spacious and well lit. They offer clean linen including blankets. It was well worth my money.


If you prefer the great outdoors most of the hotels and hostels have camping grounds. I particularly liked the one owned by the nuns of Pangani. They have their game right, their facility is fenced has showers and toilets, outside showers where you can wash off after a swim, hammocks, thatched huts that keep off the heat but not the breeze and a restaurant.

Things you can do in Pangani:

With a good tour guide, the list of activities is overwhelming. From walks and bike rides on dry land to swimming, snorkeling, paddy diving, fishing and a boat ride on the Pangani river and Indian ocean.

You can even have camp by the beach, light a campfire and enjoy a fish grill from the catch of the day. I love tour guides because they have not failed me to date even with a short available time they always find an activity that leaves my heart content and their social skills have helped me talk to people I would have otherwise had no courage to, I have learnt quite a number of things such as it costs about 10 million Tshs to make the traditional dhow. Even though I intended to go for a fishing trip I opted for a bike tour around Pangani town with Rasta Ally because I was running short of time and the fishing tour is best done with a large group to lower the cost of hiring the boat which is at $75 USD flat rate. I learnt a little history, met interesting people, was disappointed that the council was letting the historical buildings fall to ruin and got tips on how to travel on budget from a fellow traveler who had quit his job to travel. My tour guide, Ally even saw me off at the bus station when I started my trip back home.


After all the travelling hassle and having just 3 hours to enjoy a guided tour my trip was well worth it. I saw some monkeys and a rainbow after a long time. Even though most tourists pass by Pangani town to Zanzibar and Saadani national park, this is a destination that is worth exploring and well worth your while.

I spent 81,000 Tshs which was about 3,500Ths above my planned budget and learnt the following travelling tips from a Portuguese traveler named Petro:

  1. Always talk to the locals they know all the best deals.
  2. Eat where majority of the locals eat, you'll save some money.
  3. Just because someone suggests something you don’t have to buy it or pay for it, it's your money so you don't have to pay for anything that you feel is above your budget.

Next time you are planning a trip, think of Pangani.

coconut harvesting

  Featured photo by Christiane Birr via Flickr.

Fatma Makame

I'm not the typical socialite but I enjoy going to out-door events.
I have a passion for makeup artistry and am always looking out for a new beauty product to try.
My taste buds like adventure but prefer familiarity, I often find myself going the extra mile to find the comfort of a favourite eating spot- Yep, I love great food! Along with the love for food is my liking of great pictures, artworks and exploring new places.
I've only recently begun to take a time-off my busy schedule to near-by destinations.My mid-year resolution is to embark in a weekend get-way with under 100USD budget atleast once a month. Let's see If I can make this resolution work;-)


0 # Derek Freal 2012-09-21 20:39
Excellent tips, so true too. I love chatting with the locals to find out the best things that no guide book can tell you. Glad you had a great tour guide too -- that can make or break a trip!
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